Gardening: Take me home, country road

By Leigh Bramwell


I suspect one of the greatest gardening challenges for those on an average income is landscaping a long driveway. The "small budget, big space" dilemma applies and, probably for this reason, most of the driveways I traverse are au naturel. Including, despite strenuous efforts, ours.

Urban driveways are less of a problem. They're usually short, edged and sealed, and there's not often a lot of room for plants. Rural driveways, however, are usually long, irregular, metalled and pot-holed. If you're unlucky, they can also be steep, winding and weedy.

The first step in dealing with them is to ascertain why you're even bothering - apart from the fact that an unlandscaped driveway is about as attractive as a triple bypass scar. Are you looking to create a grand entrance to impress visitors, or do you regard the driveway as an extension of the garden?

If the former is the case, stop reading this minute and phone a landscaper. If it's the latter, try to think of the driveway as simply a long strip of undeveloped garden that's desperately in need of a plan.

A friend of ours has a very long, winding driveway with wide grass verges planted in rosemary and lavender. Aside from the fact that this planting palette sits a little uncomfortably in a subtropical landscape, it's also, well, boring. A more interesting approach would be to divide the space into a series of smaller gardens using a variety of plants. Having said that, may I just caution against leaping from one style or theme to another. Variety is the spice of life, but a succulent patch alongside a lush palm grove isn't going to sit comfortably either.

It pays to get your hard landscaping elements in place first, and this is not an area where you can mix and match.

A picket fence adjoining bollards and rope adjoining a low brick wall adjoining a formal hedge will simply confuse visitors, so choose a way to define the drive and stick to it.

Unless you specifically need a post and rail fence to contain miniature donkeys, babydoll sheep or some other, more commonplace stock, the way you edge your drive can be based on aesthetics - and budget, of course.

If the B word is paramount, remember that you don't have to carry your fencing or edging all the way from gate to house. If 2km of dry-stone wall will break the bank, consider sections of stone wall that taper down to the ground then start up again a little further along. Irregularly spaced outcrops of carefully placed rocks, interplanted with shrubs and groundcovers, are another option.

If, like us, you happen to have a large pile of randomly sized posts that your partner was offered and couldn't resist, despite the fact that he couldn't, at the time, think of anything to do with them, here's a plan. Sink the posts into the ground (hiring a post-hole digger for half a day will not break the bank) and run thick, gnarly rope between them. It's an effective way of saying "this is the edge" without major construction costs. You can add climbing plants to crawl up the posts and along the rope if you like, and groups of plants behind the fence at random intervals.

Formal hedging is making a serious comeback so, if you're a good gardener, you may like to go for either a classic, straight hedge, or a freeform version. Freeform is ideal for the busy or lazy among us, while a formal hedge is therapeutic to those who enjoy the discipline of precision trimming. The great advantage of this choice is that, effectively, you get the benefit of hard and soft landscaping in one.

For country cottage-style properties, how could you go past a white picket fence and wildflowers? The picket fence can be as tall or short as you like, but keep the plants that are closest to the drive fairly low, and increase the height further back. A kilometre or two of picket fence will not be cheap, unless you're lucky enough to find one that's being recycled, but you can use wildflowers right from the road then introduce the fence partway along the drive to define the approach to the house.

Try to remember when designing your driveway landscaping that the primary reason the area exists is to provide vehicle access to your house. So choose plants that won't encroach on the driving space. Do provide lighting or light-coloured paving or edging to guide guests at night, and don't position those rocky outcrops on bends where they're likely to take out someone's door.


Modernist moa trio

Three moa sculptures in the exhibition garden of award-winning Auckland landscapers Adam Shuter and Tony Murrell are a standout at this year's Ellerslie Flower Show.

Made from driftwood by a Taumarunui-based wood sculptor, the largest of the family of birds stands about 3m tall.

Adam says they chose the moa for their "Modern Day Moa" garden design because they wanted to feature something iconically Kiwi that no-one else had used before.

The resulting garden is an attractive fusion of new and old, native and exotic.

 

- Hamilton News

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